Damiano Baj

Chief Operating Officer, EFG Private Bank

Leadership for a new era of banking

Damiano Baj’s daughters speak four languages and celebrate Christmas, Easter, Diwali, and Chinese New Year. They have lived in four different countries, gathering pieces of culture from each place they called home, a life enriched by their father’s career.

Whilst such experiences have been blended seamlessly in his family life, the cultural and professional differences between Italy, Singapore, the UK and Switzerland have allowed Damiano, to navigate the different ways of working across the boardrooms in each of these countries.

Born in 1975 north of Milan, Italy, Damiano was raised in a household where education and learning extended well beyond the school bell, thanks to his father, a skilled engineer, and his mother, a headteacher no less.

Such dedication to his studies helped, Damiano to successfully relocate in 2010 to Singapore alongside his wife and daughter, soon to be joined by one more little one. The move kickstarted his career into leadership within the banking sector.

Living in the global-hub island, Damiano found himself immersed in a work culture that was much more entrepreneurially-orientated, prioritising adaptability and innovation to a degree he had yet to experience. “Italy to Switzerland is a big enough change…let alone Singapore. Everywhere, every organisation, no matter the size, the work culture feels a lot more like a start-up.”


Starting his IMPM journey

It was during his time in Singapore, Damiano was introduced to the IMPM by his work, in preparation for him to take on more senior leadership roles/responsibilities, which led him to be a part of Cycle 16—an opportunity that would further shape his perspective and leadership style.

Reflecting on his experience, Damiano emphasises three key takeaways from the program: self-awareness of his own management style, the importance of reflection in leadership, and the value of leveraging diverse experiences and cultural insights. As with so many of our participants and alumni, what made it for Damiano was his colleagues and cohort, who have remained a part of his life. “We still have a WhatsApp group chat to this day, where we share news articles, career updates, and insights. I even ended up asking one of my fellow participants to help as an external counsel for a project we were working on… there’s been a long-lasting effect for me personally too.”

Moving to London

Damiano’s career took another pivotal turn in 2017 with the merger of his work with EFG International, where he still works today in its London office. Tasked with leading the transformation and standardisation between the two global organisations, Damiano’s role propelled him into executive leadership, eventually becoming the COO of EFG’s UK business in 2019. Faced with transitioning from Singapore to the United Kingdom, Damiano once again found himself with a new business environment; “The UK is a well-regulated environment, within which there’s flexibility and collaboration” He credits the IMPM experience for helping him to transition successfully through the change.

Throughout, his experience gained from the IMPM stayed with him. He approached leadership—purposely trying to foster curiosity, active listening, and a commitment to continuous learning within his team. Two particular moments stand out; visits Cycle 16 made to a chaotic NGO in Lancaster, during the Reflective Mindset, and an exceptionally well-run hospital near Bangalore, during the Worldly mindset. In the former, despite everything, Damiano saw what he describes as “incredible process-driven operations and client-centric ethos”, which coupled with the “exceptional leadership and high importance placed on the seamless delivery of service” at the Indian Hospital, is for Damiano a model to reach after. The visits organised for participants are designed to send them into a completely different industry, so that they can see how problems (sometimes not too dissimilar from the ones they are facing) are solved differently.

The value of a global perspective

Damiano continues to implement the skills and lessons he learned throughout his diverse career journey. His global perspective, shaped by personal and professional experiences across four countries, informs his approach to leadership in a rapidly evolving banking sector.

“We frequently discuss with my wife how valuable it will be for [their daughters] because they don’t even realise the benefits of growing in such an international environment. What I find fascinating is how easily they navigate different cultures and religions. For instance, when we were in Singapore, we celebrated Diwali and Chinese New Year in addition to our traditional Christmas and other regular European celebrations. We continue to do so, and we have friends based all over the world. I find this incredibly enriching in terms of gaining different perspectives.”

As his daughters celebrate traditions from around the world, Damiano blends the best of global management practices, reinforced by his time on the IMPM.

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